E. O. Wilson (1929-2021)

Published January 15, 2022 by Nan Mykel

I just learned of the passing of the scientist whose writing first introduced me to the encompassing field of evolution: Edward O. Wilson, a Harvard professor for 46 years, who died on December 26, 2021, at the age of 92.   After he stepped down from his position at Harvard, the intellectually energized scientist published twelve additional books.

Wilson became increasingly concerned about mass extinctions and the effect on biological diversity, and ended his 1998 book Consilience  with the following words: “To  the extent that we depend on prosthetic devices to keep ourselves and the biopsphere alive, we will render everything fragile.  To the extent that we banish the rest of life, we will impoverish our own species for all time.  And if we should surrender our genetic nature to machine-aided ratiocination, and our ethics and art and our very meaning to a habit of care;less discursion  in the name of progress, imagining ourselves godlike and absolved from our ancient heritage, we will become nothing.” (Knopf, New York, 1998, p.298)

He recognized the seriousness of opposing forces to be reckoned with–“The time has come for economists and business leaders…to acknowledge the existence of the real  real world.  New indicators of progress are needed to monitor the economy , wherein the natural world and human well-being, not just economic production,  are awarded full measure.” (Ibid, p 292)

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